NJ abortion clinic mentioned in Planned Parenthood sting has troubled history

In the Planned Parenthood expose video revealed today, clinic manager Amy Woodruff (who has now lost her job) refers to the Metropolitan Medical Associates (the actor on the video says Metropolitan Medical Association but this appears to be the same place) as a place where teens can get an abortion with minimal oversight and no identification.

After being down for at least a couple of days, the MMA website is now working. One may also find a link to the clinic at NewJerseyabortion.com, a portal that also links to Women’s Choice Medical Center in Hackensack. The Women’s Choice Medical Center is a smaller clinic than MMA and does abortions for women who are under 14 weeks along. MMA does abortions for women under 24 weeks, according to a source at the clinic.

Recently, the organization has had some medical and regulatory problems. In 2007, the clinic was temporarily shut down due to a failed inspection of the facility following the death of a patient. The patient died as the result of a failed abortion. The inspection revealed dirty and unsafe conditions.

After the incident was reported [the death of the patient], state inspectors found dirty forceps, rusty crochet hooks used to remove IUDs and a quarter-inch of dark red “dirt and debris” under an examining table in the Engle Street clinic.

The state let the facility reopen in March 2007.

Regarding the claim on the Planned Parenthood video that MMA is an easier place for a teen to get an abortion, I note that the front page of the clinic website promotes the fact that one does not need parental consent in NJ. Most of the pictures seem to be of young teens. On the what to expect page, I could find nothing spelling out if there are any age restrictions. There was also an online discount coupon with a restriction on one use per person.

Planned Parenthood video generates controversy (UPDATED)

UPDATE: The clinic manager at the center of this controversy, Amy Woodruff, has been fired. Planned Parenthood condemned the manager’s actions but also had harsh words for Live Action, the group that conducted the sting.

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CBS News covers the controversy over the Planned Parenthood video released today showing a PP clinic manager referring a man posing as a pimp to an abortion clinic where underage abortions can be secured, and appearing to help the actors skirt the law.

An anti-abortion rights activist today released an edited undercover video she says exposes Planned Parenthood for “aiding and abetting the sex trafficking of underage girls” and “covering up sex abuse.”

The latest release follows similar undercover video releases from young conservative activists, most notably the James O’Keefe-led ACORN videos. And like those videos, which were later revealed to have been selectively edited, this one has immediately generated controversy.

The video is below. By the way, the Live Action group has no association with James O’Keefe. The unedited footage is here and here.

The video does not seem to be heavily edited, especially in crucial parts where the clinic manager refers the sex workers to Metropolitan Medical Association and where she advises the pimp how to get underage girls services without “getting anybody in trouble.”

Planned Parenthood has confirmed that Amy Woodruff is their employee, according to CBS News:

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the action taken by the employee as portrayed in the new video “is not consistent with Planned Parenthood’s practices, and is under review.”

The CEO of Planned Parenthood New Jersey added that “the behavior of our employee, as portrayed on the video, if accurate, violates PPCNJ policies, as well as our core values of protecting the welfare of minors and complying with the law, and appropriate action is being taken.”

Woodruff certainly does seem to be operating in contrast to what she believes other staffers would do so I do not dismiss Planned Parenthood’s statement lightly. I will watch closely to what “appropriate action” PP takes.

Given that PP has acknowledged that this manager is one of their employees, I don’t see how supporters of PP can do anything but condemn the actions portrayed here. This incident, along with the clear lack of regulation of abortion clinics recently uncovered in PA and DE, makes a convincing case for more stringent oversight of abortion clinics. As noted in the Philadelphia grand jury report, legitimate operators will not mind this.

National abortion funding network member visited notorious Philadelphia abortion clinic

In 2007, three representatives from the Delaware Pro-Choice Medical Fund toured Kermit Gosnell’s Womens Medical Society in West Philadelphia.  According to a statement from the National Network of Abortion Funds (full statement here), the visitors saw nothing that prevented them from funding abortions there. According to the NNAB,

The Network has reached out to the Delaware Pro-choice Medical Fund and can share the following information about the relationship between the Fund and Dr. Gosnell’s clinic. Three volunteer board members of the Fund toured Gosnell’s clinic in 2007. They were met by Dr. Gosnell and two other doctors as well as some administrative staff. Their tour took place on a day when abortions were not being provided, but other health care services were and the women saw several elderly patients in the waiting room. One of the other doctors, not Gosnell, showed the Fund members around the clinic. Nothing they saw, including the ultrasound room, waiting room, and recovery room, gave them any reason to be concerned about the practices of the clinic. After the tour, the Fund also did some research on Dr. Gosnell on a website that rates doctors and hospitals. On that site they discovered one sanction against another employee at the clinic but it appeared from the information available that the matter had been resolved eleven years prior. The Fund did not consider the one sanction to be sufficient reason to deny help to women obtaining abortion services at the clinic.

The Philadelphia grand jury report noted that Gosnell directed his staff to lie to the Delaware Pro-Choice Medical Fund about the address of women seeking abortion. Apparently, the DPCMF worked directly with clinics rather than giving money to women. Thus, the fund was vulnerable to this kind of fraud.

The statement from NNAF, if it can be taken at face value, illustrates at least one more reason why state government needs to regulate abortion clinics. We already know that the National Abortion Federation observed Gosnell’s clinic and found reasons not to include it in their membership. However, the evaluator told no one about the conditions there and they continued. Now we find that another pro-choice group entered the clinic and didn’t see the problems that others saw.

Apparently the conditions were continuously bad. According to the grand jury, the Philadelphia Health Department visited the clinic in 2007 and found some problems but apparently overlooked others. In fact, the grand jury was surprised that no one reported the other problems.

Health department employees who visited the clinic between 2001 and 2007 recorded that they dealt with “Drs.” O’Neill and Massof, but never Gosnell. These inspectors noted problems with the refrigerator, the clinic’s record-keeping, and expired vaccines. They were apparently oblivious, however, to other obvious deficiencies that did not relate directly to vaccines.

Perhaps Gosnell cleaned up for the visit in ways that would fool untrained people. However, in hindsight, it seems to be an oversight to only do an internet search about Gosnell. According to the NNAF statement, the Delaware group met with Gosnell and two “doctors.” According to the grand jury report, there were no other doctors at the clinic. Instead, two people called doctors at the clinic were not licensed as physicians anywhere. An inquiry of the state medical board would have uncovered that.

In the case of Women’s Medical Society, two private abortion groups visited the clinic with no consequences. The bottom line is this: if the state is not going to regulate abortion clinics, then in essence they will  be unregulated.

National Abortion Federation suspends Delaware abortion clinic

As I noted on Saturday, the National Abortion Federation deleted references on the organization website to Atlantic Women’s Medical Services late last week after my inquiries. This morning, The News Journal is reporting that the Atlantic clinics in Wilmington and Dover as well as a clinic in LA have been suspended.

The suspension, which had been recommended in a 261-page report by a Philadelphia grand jury that investigated Gosnell, came following a meeting of the executive committee of the federation’s board of directors, a federation representative wrote in an e-mail.

The suspension also applies to clinics that are affiliated with Atlantic in Louisiana, according to the statement.

Atlantic, which has clinics on Baynard Boulevard in Wilmington and on North DuPont Highway in Dover, is owned by Leroy Brinkley, who according to court papers also owns the Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge, La.

The Delta Clinic was cited by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in a 2009 for a number of health and safety violations that regulators believed put the lives of patients at risk. The clinic, however, has fixed those deficiencies, according to Louisiana officials.

As a result of the suspension, the National Abortion Federation will no longer be referring patients to the Delaware or Louisiana facilities, according to the federation. Atlantic and Delta are also no longer listed on the federation’s website under “find a provider.” But NAF did not shut the clinic down because it has no jurisdiction or authority to do so.

I started contacting both the NAF and the Wilmington clinic last week and received this statement from NAF about Atlantic late Thursday.

NAF has been cooperating with the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia. We take the Grand Jury Report seriously and we need to understand why they made the recommendation that they did in order to determine how to proceed.

It is hard to understand what else the NAF needed in order to make a determination about how to proceed. When this statement was made, the NAF had not suspended the Atlantic clinic but had been aware of the grand jury report which recommended the reassessment of the Wilmington clinic.

The LA clinic had also been under fire from pro-life groups due to allegations of poor conditions.

Delaware does not require inspections of abortion clinics which is similar to how PA related to them until the Kermit Gosnell scandal came to light. In states where such inspections are not required, the NAF is likely the only outside entity which evaluates conditions in abortion clinics. In the Gosnell grand jury report, the NAF representative testified that Kermit Gosnell’s West Philadelphia clinic was denied membership. However, the evaluator said that a denial had not happened before in her experience. Then she explained why such denials were rare.

The evaluator told the Grand Jury that this was the first time in her experience that NAF had outright rejected a provider for membership. Usually, if a clinic is able to fix deficiencies and come into compliance with the standards, NAF will admit them. Gosnell’s clinic, however, was deemed beyond redemption.

What seems clear is that in many states abortion is practically unregulated. If the state does not visit the clinic, clinics could go for years with no outside evaluation. The NAF only visits every 5-7 years, and their reports have no teeth legally. As the grand jury report points out, nail salons have more oversight.

National Abortion Federation quietly removes reference to Gosnell’s Delaware clinic

Sometime Friday, the National Abortion Federation removed reference to the Atlantic Women’s Medical Services in Wilmington, DE from their website. Atlantic is the clinic where Philadelphia abortion doctor and accused murderer, Kermit Gosnell, worked one day per week until early last year. For now, the clinic remains in the search cache.

Late Thursday, the NAF issued a statement to me indicating confusion about why the Philadelphia grand jury recommended that the NAF “reassess” the membership of Atlantic. At least six illegal abortions were paid for and began at the Delaware clinic. The Director of the clinic, Leroy Brinkley, failed to produce records relating to three of the clients in question. One of Gosnell’s staff, Lynda Williams, also worked at both clinics and has been charged with murder. An NAF spokesperson told me via email:

NAF has been cooperating with the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia. We take the Grand Jury Report seriously and we need to understand why they made the recommendation that they did in order to determine how to proceed.

The grand jury report made clear why the recommendation to reassess was made.

We recommend that NAF reassess the membership of Atlantic Women’s Medical Services, the Delaware abortion clinic where Gosnell worked part-time before losing his license in that state. We learned that at least six patients were referred from Atlantic to Gosnell’s clinic in Philadelphia for illegal late-term abortions. These patients paid Atlantic for late-term procedures performed by Gosnell in his Lancaster Avenue clinic.

We heard evidence that Gosnell would insert laminaria in patients in Delaware and then have them come to his Philadelphia office for the abortion procedure itself. The director of Atlantic Women’s Medical Services, Leroy Brinkley, was unconcerned. He did not properly supervise the doctors he hired as “independent contractors” to assure that they were complying with the law. Remarkably, despite Gosnell’s long time association with Atlantic, Brinkley only produced three files for patients seen by Gosnell at Brinkley’s clinic.

Although, the NAF statement implies lack of understanding about why Atlantic should be removed, the clinic is not now showing up on the NAF website via search of clinics in DE. The membership status of Atlantic is not clear.

On Friday, the DE Attorney General, Beau Biden, announced the beginning of an investigation into the Atlantic clinic.

Did the Hyde Amendment keep Kermit Gosnell in business?

By now, the facts are well known. Kermit Gosnell, a physician in charge of Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia, was charged last week with the deaths of a former patient via a botched abortion and seven infants who were born alive and then murdered. The grand jury report of the investigation is here and another post on the matter is here.

Some pro-choice advocates are blaming restrictions on abortion and abortion funding, such as the Hyde Amendment for the tragedy. For instance, Amanda Marcotte, writing for RhRealityCheck.org, asks, “Why can’t anti-choicers accept that restricting abortion means more predators like Kermit Gosnell will get customers?” Susan Schewel, executive director of the Women’s Medical Fund, a group that funds abortion for low income women, suggests that the lack of Medicaid funding caused by the Hyde Amendment drives women to low cost horror factories such as operated by Gosnell. In a letter to supporters about the Gosnell tragedy, Schewel writes, “This prohibition on Medicaid payment for abortion leaves desperate women vulnerable to sub-standard providers.

The problem with this line of thinking is that Gosnell was able to accept Medicaid funding, at least for vaccines. The grand jury report indicates that he took insurance payments, at least some from Medicaid via a City of Philadelphia program that paid for vaccinations. I have also learned this afternoon that he was a network provider for the insurance giant Aetna until early 2010.

According to the grand jury report, at least one pro-choice group, the Delaware Pro-Choice Abortion Fund paid for abortions at Gosnell’s clinic. The issue here was not access but lack of oversight. Incidentally, I can find no indication that the pro-choice funding group ever checked up on Gosnell.

If Medicaid paid for abortion, yes, Gosnell’s clients would have had free or nearly free services, but without oversight, those free services could have been pretty costly. The issue here is oversight, or rather the lack of it, and let’s not forget why that oversight was lacking. Kenneth Brody, Department of Health lawyer said there was consideration given to restarting abortion clinic regulation in 1999. However, the decision was not to inspect. Why? Brody told the grand jury:

…there was a concern that if they did routine inspections, that they may find a lot of these facilities didn’t meet [the standards for getting patients out by stretcher or wheelchair in an emergency], and then there would be less abortion facilities, less access to women to have an abortion.

Gosnell was performing procedures that few others would do even if the Hyde amendment was not in force. But those Medicaid did allow (rape, health of the mother), he did perform, at least according to this rate sheet obtained at Gosnell’s clinic.

I agree with the Philadelphia grand jury; the massacre in Philadelphia was due to a lack of oversight impure and painfully simple.

PA Senate to hold hearings on failure of abortion clinic regulation

I just received this statement from Erik Arneson, Communications and Policy Director for Sen Dominic Pileggi, PA Senate Majority Leader, Speaking about the case of Kermit Gosnell and the grand jury report on the atrocities alleged at the Women’s Medical Society in Philadelphis, Arneson said:

The grand jury report shows a massive systematic failure by the state agencies responsible for overseeing this facility. We intend to hold at least one public hearing to examine the problems in detail.

I hope the hearing will be sufficient to cover the “massive systemic failure” as well as any other factors that led to the scandal in Philadelphia. Given the scope of the situation, I suspect one hearing may not be enough.

PA Abortion clinic inspections stopped to avoid barriers to abortion

The grand jury report on Kermit Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society in Philadelphia carefully details the shocking negligence of many people. From those responsible for regulating health under two administrations to outside certifying agencies, many people knew something was wrong in West Philly and they did little or nothing. Here is a passage (pp.148-149) from the grand jury report that finds a change in policy regarding abortion clinics when Governor Tom Ridge took over from Bob Casey. In essence, the change in regulatory posture was justified by the belief that such negligence would make abortions more accessible.

Since February 2010, Department of Health officials have reinstituted regular inspections of abortion clinics – finding authority in the same statute they used earlier to justify not inspecting.

Staloski blamed the decision to abandon supposedly annual inspections of abortion clinics on DOH lawyers, who, she said, changed their legal opinions and advice to suit the policy preferences of different governors. Under Governor Robert Casey, she said, the department inspected abortion facilities annually. Yet, when Governor Tom Ridge came in, the attorneys interpreted the same regulations that had permitted annual inspections for years to no longer authorize those inspections. Then, only complaint driven inspections supposedly were authorized. Staloski said that DOH’s policy during Governor Ridge’s administration was motivated by a desire not to be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.

Brody confirmed some of what Staloski told the Grand Jury. He described a meeting of high-level government officials in 1999 at which a decision was made not to accept a recommendation to reinstitute regular inspections of abortion clinics. The reasoning, as Brody recalled, was: “there was a concern that if they did routine inspections, that they may find a lot of these facilities didn’t meet [the standards for getting patients out by stretcher or wheelchair in an emergency], and then there would be less abortion facilities, less access to women to have an abortion.”

Brody testified that he did not consider the “access issue” a legal one. The Abortion Control Act, he told the Grand Jurors, charges DOH with protecting the health and safety of women having abortions and premature infants aborted alive. To carry out this responsibility, he said, DOH should regularly inspect the facilities.

Nevertheless, the position of DOH remained the same after Edward Rendell became governor. Using the legally faulty excuse that the department lacked the authority to inspect abortion clinics, Staloski left them unmonitored, presumably with the knowledge and blessing of her bosses, Deputy Secretary Stacy Mitchell and a succession of Secretaries of Health. The department continued its do-nothing policy until 2010, when media attention surrounding the raid of the Gosnell clinic exposed the results of years of hands-off “oversight.” Now, once again, the regulations, which have never been modified, apparently allow for regular inspections. This is, and always was, the correct position. The state legislature gave DOH the duty to enforce its regulations; the authority and power to do so are implicit in that duty. The department abandoned this responsibility without explanation, and without notice to the public or the legislature.

This is a scandal which requires an investigation. The legislature in PA developed statutes which required clinics to be investigated and the law was not followed. The new chief executive in PA, Tom Corbett, is reportedly upset about this case. I hope he turns his upsetness into action.

I should also mention that I have contacted the DOH’s chief counsel in PA for comment but have not had a reply.

Abortion clinic regulation scandal in PA

Yesterday, I briefly posted a link to an article about Kermit Gosnell, a physician in Philadelphia who has been charged with the murder of a patient and sevenbabies. I knew I recognized the name but couldn’t place it at the time. After looking a bit more, I found several articles on the Gosnell’s background (e.g., this one from LifeNews).

Then I located the grand jury report on the case which included testimony of lawyers for the PA Dept of Health (beware – the report is not for the faint of heart). There is some confirmation of my suspicion that the reason abortion clinics had not been inspected related to policy. Here is a passage (pp. 161-164) where the report characterizes the testimony of attorneys for the DOH.

It was clear to us after hearing these witnesses testify that the decisions not to inspect abortion clinics or to license them as ASFs were not based on any serious interpretation of statutes or legal research. These lawyers were simply twisting and reinterpreting the law to explain policy decisions that changed with administrations, even though the laws did not. Dutton admitted in her testimony that the decision not to inspect was a policy decision, not one grounded in the law:

Q: Does it surprise you to know that some of the reasons cited for the failure to go out and do these inspections is that they believed that they didn’t have the legal authority to do so?

A: That would surprise me, yes. . . . To me, I would believe that they didn’t go out to do them because some policy had been set in the department at some point in time in the past that we were not going to do regular inspections of abortion facilities.

Dutton’s failure to recognize and treat abortion clinics as ASFs, and her silence as DOH shirked its duty to protect women and infants at abortion clinics, reflect a blatant refusal to enforce the law.

The DOH attorneys offered multiple explanations to attempt to justify why the department does not license abortion clinics in the same manner as any other ASF. None of their explanations comports with the law or with common sense.

Two of their “justifications” are barely worth comment. One lawyer told us that there is always “push-back” from doctors who do not want to be licensed as ASFs. Not only is this argument irrelevant to any legal analysis, it is unpersuasive. We learned that there are fewer than 30 abortion providers in the entire state. These doctors should not be able to exert that much push-back. Moreover, the legitimate abortion providers who testified before the Grand Jury told us that they already comply with standards as demanding as those for ASFs. Abortion rights advocates told us the same thing – that licensing abortion clinics as ASFs would not be burdensome because clinics that are members of NAF, or associated with Planned Parenthood, already comply with the highest standards of care.

A second reason proffered by DOH attorneys for not licensing abortion clinics – that abortion is “controversial” – is just insulting. Abortion is a legal medical procedure. Any controversy surrounding the issue should not affect how the law is enforced or whether the Department of Health protects the safety of women seeking health care.

The DOH lawyers offered up policy based reasons not to regulate abortion providers but the grand jury dismissed these excuses.

I am hoping an investigation of the DOH will now commence to discern who authorized the policy which illegally exempted abortion facilities from inspection. As the rest of the grand jury report makes clear abortion facilities are required to be inspected by state law regulating ambulatory surgical facilities (ASFs). However, apparently for decades, these facilities have not been treated as such and allowed to practice without oversight.

Gruesome abortion/murder case in Philadelphia

Sorry, this is awful.

The health department did not investigate complaints from 1996 until 2010, according to the prosecutor in this case. It is speculation on my part, but I wonder if regulators were protecting him because he was willing to perform abortions, particularly ones that others would not perform. In addition to the prosecution of the physician and his staff, I hope the PA Health Dept is investigated. I think I will look into this tomorrow…